Last week we wrote about a disappointing Supreme Court decision that could negatively affect workers in Florida and across the country who are considered state employees. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states have sovereign immunity and are therefore protected against lawsuits seeking money damages for violating certain provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
The ruling is a blow to state employees who have faced wrongful termination after taking unpaid FMLA leave for personal health reasons. Thankfully, companies in the private sector are not immune from such FMLA lawsuits.
In a recent government press release, a regional representative of the U.S. Labor Department explained the importance of personal FMLA leave. She said: "Workers' jobs should be protected while they are dealing with serious medical problems. The Labor Department is committed to protecting the rights of employees eligible under the FMLA to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year."
Recently, the Labor Department's power was levied against the prominent insurance company Aflac (American Family Life Assurance Co.). The company will now pay nearly $17,000 to a former employee who was wrongfully terminated for trying to take FMLA leave for personal medical reasons.
The Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division investigated the claim. Aflac allegedly tried to classify the employee's leave as non-FMLA-protected and said that he had not submitted requested documents in a timely manner.
The Wage and Hour Division's investigation revealed that this was not true. In addition to the financial provisions of the agreement, Aflac committed to improving its FMLA compliance in the future.
We cannot always rely on our physical health. There will be times that some medical leave is necessary. Therefore, the provisions of the FMLA must be upheld to make sure that all protected workers have a job to return to when their health improves.
Source: WTVM.com, "Aflac agrees to pay former employee nearly $17,000 in FMLA lawsuit," U.S Department of Justice news release, April 3, 2012